ATP Doha: Novak Djokovic retains title with thrilling win over Andy Murray

ATP Doha: Novak Djokovic retains title with thrilling win over Andy Murray

The Serb won a dramatic three-set final to knock off his British rival for the 24th time in their rivalry.

John Lupo

Second seed Novak Djokovic successfully defended his title at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open with a stirring 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 win over top seed and top-ranked Andy Murray. The loss snaps Murray's 28 match winning streak dating back to last year.

Djokovic takes advantage of Murray lapse to win opening set

If the first few games were any indication, the nature in which this match was contested was not to be a surprise. The quality was at its highest and the tension was prevalent. Both players held after tough opening games and Djokovic needed the trainer to look at his cut thumb at 30-30 in the third game. He saved a break point for a 2-1 lead.

Each man would now have easy service holds and at 4-3 ahead, the Serb took advantage of Murray errors to secure the break and take the lead, the Brit shanking a forehand to hand over his serve. Now rock-solid on his own serve, he held to love with a sizzling forehand winner to clinch the opening set 6-3.

Murray produces epic comeback on the brink of defeat to force third set

The two combatants were now locked in a serving duel, unexpected with the quality of each man's return. It wasn't until the sixth game that the returner reached deuce as Murray, whose own serving was now on point, was applying pressure. Djokovic held and used that momentum to break in the game, helped by Murray double-faulting twice, a far cry from the first three games of the set.

Overcoming a 0-30 on his serve, Djokovic held and was one game from the title. At 5-4, the defending champion held three match points, but was denied in a grueling 13-minute battle that saw Murray come through with the break to stay alive.

The world number one was on the ascendancy and he held for a 6-5 lead, aided by a Djokovic point penalty to give Murray the game via a racket smash. He then earned two set points at 15-40 and after a bad return saved one set point, a laser-like backhand gave Murray the set and sent this captivating final to a third and deciding set.

Djokovic edges out third set to defend title

The final set continued to produce thrilling and intense tennis and the opening game was proof of that as Murray was pushed to deuce, but held on. With the server having mostly dominated now, serving first was a big edge and Murray seemed to be having it go his way. With a 3-2 lead, he held break point to try and all but seal the match. Djokovic, tired and in pain, fought to hold on and level the set at 3-3.

The big moment came in the very next game as Djokovic sealed an easy break with a backhand error from the top-ranked Brit. Both men ran through their next service games and Djokovic stepped up to serve out the championship at 5-4.

A woefully executed smash and backhand into the net gave Murray a 0-30 lead and it was starting to look like the end of the second set, but Djokovic regrouped and on championship point, a forehand winner kept the title in the Serb's possession and brought down the curtain on a memorable affair.